THE sight of the Riverside Stadium on a matchday is likely to evoke a warm sense of belonging to Patrick Bamford.
His second coming on Teesside starts in earnest this afternoon with the striker seeking to put an 18-month nightmare behind him on rather more fertile territory.
Bamford failed to find the net in inauspicious loan spells at Burnley, Crystal Palace and Norwich, while his former stomping ground is likely to provide him with a welcome fillip.
During Boro’s run to the Championship play-off final in 2014-15, Bamford was on the mark in the club’s final regular five home games of that eventful season – with Aitor Karanka hoping that the 23-year-old can familarise himself again with the goal trail in conducive surroundings.
On a rough period in his career, Bamford said: “There have been times over the last 18 months where I have been more upset than people think.
“There were numerous times where I would ring my family on the way home from training and say look this is not working, this is getting to me, it is really hard, I am doing my best.
“I think I have to take some responsibility for that, I could have done things differently, but I still do not think I was given a chance.
“But I am leaving all that in the past, this is a fresh start. What the last 18 months has done is make me strong. It has made me determined to fight for my shirt and when I get it, never let it go.
“When I was here 18 months ago, I connected with the fans and everyone around the place.
“It left an imprint on my heart. It meant a lot to me that the Boro fans were still in touch when I was with other clubs and it wasn’t going that well.”
Saturday’s opponents have endured a topsy-turvy start to the campaign – they have won four and lost three of their last seven games in all competitions – which has not been helped in recent weeks by star man Dimitri Payet’s request to leave.
However, Karanka admits their inconsistency has not proved too damaging.
He said: “Predictable or unpredictable, they have 25 points – we are predictable and we have 20.”